You may have heard my statement read publicly at Masses in the Diocese on Sunday, Aug. 19, or read it as an insert in your parish bulletin. As a follow-up to my initial reaction, I present this reflection and a partial follow-up plan to the challenges to the present crises that are facing the church. I realize that changes need to be made in the governance of the church. I offer here some initial actions to which I commit myself.
- 1: I will increase and improve our pastoral care, concern and efforts to accompany victims of sexual abuse in their journey toward healing.
- 2: I will provide as many ways as possible for those who have been victimized to come forward without fear and to share their story of sexual abuse. We need to know as fully as possible the harm that was done, so that we can both offer care to victims and ensure no perpetrators remain in ministry.
- 3: I will listen to your concerns and suggestions. I, and others, will be reaching out through a number of listening sessions throughout the diocese to listen to your concerns in the next few weeks, including anyone who has been impacted by recent reports and events. I will also read and take to heart letters and other correspondence sent to me.
- 4: I will again make priests’ files accessible for complete review by the Independent Review Board, which is made up primarily of professional lay people and offers me direction on how to handle cases of abuse.
- 5: I will express my full support to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in their efforts to establish a national lay independent review board to provide a forum to handle complaints of misconduct or mismanagement by bishops. I commit to finding ways to provide increased accountability for bishops.
- 6: I will continue the practice of turning over all substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors to the proper civil authorities for investigation and continue a zero tolerance policy of any abuse reported.
- 7: I will direct that the diocesan mission campaign, “One by One,” be paused for some time in order to focus my time and energy on addressing the issues and actions at hand at this time.
In this issue of The Compass, you will see a “report out” of some of what we are already doing that impacts or flows from these issues. I will continue to report to you in regard to other developments so that you are kept “in the loop” of communications locally.
Sexual abuse of minors is a horrible sin and crime. While we have been working vigorously for many years to be vigilant in these matters and to show loving pastoral care for victims, I am committed to making whatever changes are necessary to help us reform, learn and grow from this experience.